A group photo of the five-judge bench comprised of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi (C) flanked by (L-R) Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde, Justice Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, Justice S Abdul Nazeer after delivering the verdict on Ayodhya land case, at Supreme Court in New Delhi on 9 Nov 2019 | Photo: PTI
A group photo of the five-judge bench after delivering the verdict on Ayodhya land case, at Supreme Court in New Delhi on 9 Nov 2019 | Photo: PTI
Text Size:

The first of what could be many review petitions challenging the Supreme Court’s unanimous Ayodhya verdict has been filed by the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind.

It would be interesting to see the Supreme Court judges react any differently other than dismiss the review petition, even though many, including former Supreme Court judges, have pointed out the gaping holes in the 9 November judgment. My bet is on the judges dismissing the review petition after a perfunctory in-chambers hearing.

But it is a bet that I would love to lose.

I had written on the day of the judgment that the Supreme Court had done a fine balancing act, even as it unfairly decided to pander to the demands of the majority Hindu community.

It is now clear that the judgment didn’t satisfy the Muslim litigants, who rightly feel short-changed. But here’s why not much may come out of the review petitions, the second of which is expected to be filed by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) before 9 December.


Also read: Here’s why Supreme Court’s Ayodhya verdict differed with Allahabad High Court’s 2010 ruling


Too much expectations

It takes people of high moral integrity and standard to acknowledge that their decision might have been wrong. Can the Supreme Court judges follow this dictum?

It may be too much to expect the judges to acknowledge that not one or two but all five members of the Constitution bench went wrong.

It hardly matters that former Supreme Court judge A.K. Ganguly, at a discussion in Delhi on the Ayodhya verdict Monday, tendered a vote of no-confidence in the judgment, saying, “…the conclusions of the judgment are not matched by its reasons, rather they are mutually destructive.”

Moreover, despite the clamour and clear signs that the Ayodhya verdict was anything but perfect, the Supreme Court may decide against reopening the case also because it firmly believes that its verdict was the only way to give closure to the oldest and most controversial religious disputes in India.

The judges who will hear the review petition are more likely to be led not by the legal nuances of the case but the belief that their decision to re-revisit the judgment could give rise to fresh communal tensions.

Even the petition, filed by Jamiat president Maulana Syed Asshad Rashidi on behalf of the original litigant in the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute case, M. Siddiq, is clear about the ‘sensitivity’ of the issue. “The review petitioner is conscious of the sensitive nature of the issue and understands the need to put a quietus to the issue in dispute so as to maintain peace and harmony in our country, however, it is submitted that there can be no peace without justice,” the petition reads.


Also read: AIMPLB’s Ayodhya review petition will be futile. Muslims must accept verdict gracefully


Where is the reason for review?

The review has been filed under Article 137 of the Constitution, which says that, subject to provisions of any law and rules made under Article 145, the Supreme Court has the power to review any judgment delivered by it.

In dealing with review petitions in civil cases, the court is guided by Order XLVII, Rule I of the Code of Civil Procedure. This deals with the grounds for review, the most important of which is “some mistake or error apparent on the face of the record”.

More importantly, as the 1997 Parsion Devi vs Sumitri Devi case established, while a judgment may be reviewed if there is an ‘error apparent’, it is not permissible for an erroneous decision to be “reheard and corrected”. “A review petition, it must be remembered, has a limited purpose and cannot be allowed to be ‘an appeal in disguise’,” the bench had ruled.

In a case as sensitive as the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid, it would be fallacious, even though laudable, to hope that the judges will agree to review their judgment.

For those who believe that secularism is still thriving in India, it may be of some value to point out that the judgment, which rewarded Hindus for having encroached upon the Babri Masjid land illegally, fails on many fronts. Justice Ganguly questioning if the “demolition of the mosque constitute a better possessory title of the Hindus” may be a matter of debate. But the judges do not necessarily have to agree.


Also read: Will the AIMPLB’s review petition on Ayodhya verdict help or hurt Muslims?


Divide within Muslim community

There is a clear divide among Muslims as to whether reviewing the Ayodhya verdict is a good idea.

A few days ago, the chairman of the National Minority Commission advised against filing a review petition. His logic: it could be seen as an affront by the majority community, which would feel that Muslims were trying to create obstacles for the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya.

The statement is significant because it is the clearest but unspoken signal that Muslims are fearful of any reprisal from the Hindu community if the construction of Ram Mandir doesn’t begin soon. Leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including ministers who have sworn to uphold the Constitution, do not miss any opportunity to voice their sentiments in favour of constructing the temple – with the economy in an uncontrolled downward spiral, Ram and a ‘bhavya’ (grand) temple in Ayodhya could prove to be the saviour for the Narendra Modi government and the BJPIn such a scenario, is there anything apart from showing magnanimity, even if it is clearly under duress, that the Muslim community can offer now?

Such is the divide that the Muslim parties can’t agree even on whether to persist with the services of their advocate – Rajeev Dhavan. In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Dhavan said he has accepted “the ‘sacking’ without demur”.


Also read: Muslim parties ‘sack’ lawyer Rajeev Dhavan from Ayodhya review plea but AIMPLB wants him


Little chance

Finally, review petitions have very little chance of succeeding.

In majority of cases, the Supreme Court dismisses them, often without affording the lawyers a chance to argue their case.

In recent times, if any judgment deserved to be reviewed, it was the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Rafale case. There were errors so apparent that the judgment would keep drawing attention for the poor penmanship as well as (mis)understanding of the law and procedure. But the Supreme Court dismissed all review petitions.

In the Ayodhya matter, there is no error. It is just the Supreme Court that pandered to the majority view in the hope that the demands for more temples in place of existing mosques will no longer be voiced.

The author is a senior journalist. Views are personal.

ThePrint is now on Telegram. For the best reports & opinion on politics, governance and more, subscribe to ThePrint on Telegram.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel.

9 Comments Share Your Views

9 COMMENTS

  1. It has become crystal clear to the rest of the world that the SC of India is a Kangaroo court, incompetent in delivering justice. Regardless of the outcome of the review petitions to be filed noting is going to change the verdict. It is time to move on to the next phase and build this grand Hindu temple, so that it can destroyed just like Babri Masjid was, if anyone thinks the SC has resolved the issue, they are in for a big surprise.

  2. Darwin’s Siddhant
    Those who do not know when to stop with their wrong demands are liable to be wiped out. That is justice.
    Welcome to extinction

  3. It is foolish to believe that BAbur peacefully built a mosque at the disputed site without demolishing the temple . It is common sense to see that Muslim rulers were barbaric and they demolished hundreds of temples.

  4. I think this matter , whether wrong or right , should be put to rest .RIP. Once in a rare while the oppressed should let the oppressor have his way not because of lack of faith but due to an abundance of it , faith that if the weak & poor cannot get justice , justice does not belong to the hallowed portal that we believe it belongs to & if that is so there is nothing so majestic in life that one cannot live without & again if that is so whatever some one else gains is not majestic but worthless bauble.

  5. For once the Muslim community will do well to learn to live with others in harmony and peace. All these so called leaders, politicians and pea brain journalists are trying to provoke the ordinary muslim who has simple aims of leadings a peaceful life with diginity and trying to be a better person. By conveying a sense of injustice and humiliation so that the peace of the society is converted into strife and they can warm their ‘Rotees’ in the resulting fire.
    Justice is not some esoteric mathematical idea in vacuum but is rooted in the the state of the society and the balance to maintain peace, law and order. The minorities the world over consider carefully the consequences of alienating the majorities by their actions.
    As Newton said,”To every action there is opposing reaction”

  6. Are malik kashi aur mathura ke liye sabut nahi chahiye naa sabke saamne hai, uskoo khali karane ke liye apne secular muslim
    bhaiyo ko taiyaar karo tum…
    secularism ka bhar bas hinduo par hai jinko gardan katwa ke secularism prove karna hoga, jaiesa ki Gandhi chahte the (swami shradhanand ka murder ho ya kamlesh tiwari.. ya phir moopla riots)

  7. Lol, the judgements are based on the kind of submission you do in court. When you failed in the court you may look for excuses to hide your failure.

  8. Without going into the intricate legalities couple of basic questions.
    1. Was invading Babur so generous as to buy the land with some structure on it from whoever owned it before his arrival OR did he just grabbed it ?
    2. Is it conclusively established that there was a non- islamic structure under the destroyed structure?
    If the answer to these questions is yes then the rest is all for lawyers to make money, the politicians to play politics and the journalists and intellectuals to write and keep the pot boiling.
    They all have made gains out of it, so it would be nice if they move on to the next topic.

  9. Wow!

    Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, on record, via ThePrint, has made it evident why it is appealing the SC ruling. None of those reasons have been represented by the author. An undergrad would know that one has to base one’s case on facts and the interpretation of law. The author bases their article on innuendo and irrelevant case-law.

    Let me give you a hint. The reason the ‘muslim’ stakeholders are appealing the case is because they need clarity the waqf framework isn’t being compromised.

    One wonders if the author has read the verdict at all!

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here